This week the filmmakersphere was abuzz with the Canon vs. RED camera throwdown. Now is about the time when everybody reminds everyone that a camera doesn’t make a movie, a filmmaker does…

Check.

As Scott Macaulay at Filmmaker Mag points out, Ryan Koo’s reasoning for buying the Scarlet-X outright is impeccable.

Some things to keep in mind: Koo’s movie has a $125,000+ budget and the basketball action scenes will require a great deal of slow motion.

So while the Scarlet-X isn’t perfect for every film at every budget level, it certainly fits his nicely. Koo points out that the ‘ready-to-shoot’ prices of both the C300 and the Scarlet are more comparable than they at first look. But as Stu Maschwitz concludes, it’s hard not to compare specs and think anything other than that RED “swept the legs out” from under Canon.

It seems like Canon was designing a camera to compete with the RED One (original price $17.5k), not taking into account RED had already moved lightyears ahead.

Anyway, Canon can console themselves that RED has yet to be able to compete with them in the larger ‘low-end pro’ market. Their 5DmkII and T3i (600D) have that locked down nicely. Scarlet was initially planned to be $4k, which is still a lot more than a 5DmkII. RED couldn’t make it happen. They pushed and pushed the release date. They did make the Epic happen, and I think it’s no accident that the Scarlet-X seems to be descended from the Epic rather than the earlier fixed-lens designs that were floated for the original Scarlet.

So here is the bottom line: do you need to deliver your film in better than 1920 x 1080 resolution (~2k)? If you are distributing on television or internet in the next few years, the answer will be no. And you don’t need to worry about these fancy high-resolution cameras like the Scarlet-X and the Arri Alexa. They will be overkill in all but a few rare cases.

If, on the other hand, you can afford to future-proof your film, or you are thinking of wide theatrical release, then you must consider mastering in 4k or above. Yes, the costs go up exponentially between the levels, but the existence of the Scarlet-X has made this level of filmmaking just a teensy bit cheaper.

The Canon C300, because it only goes up to 1080p, is not a consideration for the 4k+ level, and probably too expensive to make sense in the previous scenario. So Canon has finally made a filmmaker-friendly camera but misses on one key spec: resolution. I wonder if this might even be fixed with a firmware update, or a cheap RAW-video-out hack. If that’s the case, the C300 is back in the game.

Until then, Scarlet-X moves to pole position among 4k cameras for indie filmmakers: high-end results at value prices.

UPDATE: Stu Maschwitz has a more-detailed look at the Scarlet, the C300 and other HD cameras for filmmakers